Lynton and Barnstaple Railway
Signalling at Lynton
This page describes the signalling at Lynton station on the former narrow-gauge Lynton & Barnstaple Railway (L&BR). Please see the separate Introduction to L&BR Signalling page for general background information and details of other pages on RailWest about the signalling of the L&BR. Click here for more general historical details about the L&BR and a Bibliography.
Any study of the signalling at Lynton is complicated by the fact that the track layout and associated signalling underwent a number of changes in the first few years of the railway's existence, and there is very limited photographic evidence of the original arrangements. After this initial upheaval the layout remained basically unchanged for most of the life of the railway, except for some updating of the signalling equipment by the Southern Railway (SR) circa-1924. Most of the photographs and diagrams which have been published in books about the L&BR reflect only the later arrangements.
The station at Lynton was laid out on approximately a south-west to north-east alignment, with the line towards Barnstaple running off towards the south-west. L&BR trains ran 'Up' to Barnstaple and 'Down' to Lynton. There was a platform on the east (Up) side of the main line, with the station building at its northern end. The western face of the platform served the main line, whilst along part of its eastern face at the southern end there was a shorter bay road. To the west of the main platform line there was a run-round loop, which was extended at its northern end to form a siding serving the goods-shed situated beyond the end of the platform. The engine-shed lay to the south-west of the station and was served by a separate siding on the west (Down) side of the single line. The point leading into this siding was combined with the point leading into the bay platform road as a double-slip, a rather unusual and expensive piece of trackwork for a narrow-gauge railway.
The original signalling equipment was installed by Evans O'Donnell (EoD), who were the L&BR's signalling contractor. On 4-May-1898 Lt Col HA Yorke inspected the L&BR on behalf of the Board of Trade and his subsequent Inspection Report contains some brief details about the signalling at Lynton, but unfortunately as no official numbered signal-diagram for Lynton has come to light yet a number of un-answered questions remain about some features. The outline diagram below is intended to show those features of the signalling which are believed to have existed at Lynton during the first few years of the railway.
Note: The signal and point numbers and letters shown on all the diagrams on this page are purely arbitrary and have been included for identification purposes only within RailWest. Points given the same prefix letter (eg B1, B2) are assumed to have been worked from the same lever.
Lynton signal-box (SB) was a small wooden hut, similar in style to those used at the main intermediate stations, which was mounted at the back of the platform between the station building and the end of the bay platform. This might seem to be a strange location, as it was at the other end of the station from most of the points and signals, but it would have enabled the signalman to be employed on other station duties between trains. Col Yorke's Inspection Report stated that this SB had an interlocking frame of 7 levers, which is assumed to have been mounted at the rear of the SB as was the case with the other L&BR SBs of this type. In common with the other small L&BR SBs the Electric Train Tablet instrument (for the single-line section to Woody Bay) was housed in the station building.
L&BR facing points were fitted with 'economic' Facing Point Locks (FPL). In the presumed 1898 layout at Lynton therefore there would have been economic FPLs on points B1, C, D1 and E1 only. There are a number of different ways in which the double-slip could have been worked - the more common arrangement (at each end both sets of point blades are worked by the same lever) only requires 2 levers, but the diagram has been drawn on the basis of a method requiring 3 levers. The reason for that assumption is the fact that early photographic evidence shows a run of 4 point rods from the SB alongside the loop towards the Barnstaple end of the layout. Assuming that one rod is for point B1 and trap-point B2, then this would suggest that 3 rods were used for the double-slip complex.
It is not known whether originally the engine-release crossover points (A1+A2) were worked by a single lever in the SB lever-frame, or by individual local hand-levers as was known to be the case in later years. Given the location of the crossover then operation from the SB might seem a reasonable assumption, but (as described below) it is difficult to understand how this would have been accommodated within the limited size of the lever-frame. It may be the case therefore that local hand-levers were used from the outset.
The Main and Bay platform roads each had an Up Starting signal (marked as UMS and UBS respectively on the diagram), while the Down Home signal (DH) was a single post with two arms - the upper arm reading for the Main road and the lower arm for the Bay road. With points A1+A2 probably being worked by hand-levers on the ground, this gives a total of 8 levers required to work the layout, but Col Yorke's Inspection Report states that Lynton SB had 6 working and 1 spare levers (ie a total of only 7 levers). Having deduced that (at least) 4 of these levers were used for points, then how can 2 levers account for 4 signal arms? This could be achieved by the use of 'selection' and/or 'push-pull' levers, two different methods by which a pair of signals can be worked by a single lever (which would fit the general 'economical' pattern of L&BR signalling). However it is suspected that the solution may be a more complex and interesting one, taking into account something not mentioned in any previous description of the railway.
The BoT Inspection Report includes the suggestion that at Lynton "...both the main and bay lines should be originated for arrival and departure...". It is not known exactly what Col Yorke meant by the term 'originated', but if one substitutes the word 'signalled' then perhaps the meaning of the sentence is clear. On the basis of similar practice elsewhere on some older layouts, it may be assumed that the Bay road was signalled for departures only, the intended practice being that Down trains would arrive in the Main platform so that the engine could run round, after which the empty stock would be shunted to the Bay platform. Indeed there is circumstantial contemporary evidence also to suggest that, in fact, the Bay line had no signalling at all at the time that it was inspected by Col Yorke. This would mean that UBS did not exist and that DH originally had one arm only.
The Down Home signal (DH) can be seen in the background of a photograph of the 1898 opening ceremony, where it appears to have only one arm, but it is difficult to be certain. It is noticeable also in later photographs of this signal that there appeared to be no provision made for the lampman to access the lower arm off the ladder, which would support a theory that the signal was erected originally with only one arm and the lower arm was a later addition to provide a signal for the bay road. If it is assumed that the original installation had the UMS and a one-arm DH only, then those 2 signals would account for the remaining 2 working levers - but what happened when UBS and the second DH arm were added? Perhaps then the UMS+UBS pair, and the two DH arms, were each worked from one lever and 'selected' by point C, a common 'economic' feature? The precise details remain a frustrating mystery!
Soon after the railway opened the double-slip was removed and replaced by a single point (C) giving access to the Bay road. The original points to the engine shed road (D1/D2) were removed and a new access provided to the engine-shed by a new point (B2) in the loop - this point was used also to act as a trap-point for the loop, enabling the original trap-point to be removed. The engine release crossover (A1/A2) was reversed so that it now faced incoming trains on the Main road, reportedly at about the same time as the other changes (although it should be noted that the 1904 Ordnance Survey map shows the reversed crossover with the original double-slip arrangement still in place). The diagram below shows the revised layout circa-1905.
At about the same time the SB was removed from the platform and relocated to a new position at the station throat; from photographic evidence of the hut in its new location it has been concluded that the lever-frame remained at the rear. The removal of the double-slip would have rendered at least 1 lever spare, but to what extent the lever-frame may have been re-locked for the revised layout is unknown. On the assumption that the new point C had an 'economic' FPL (in addition to the one already on point B1) then certainly the revised requirement for 2 points and 4 signals would have left 1 spare lever within a 7-lever frame.
No FPL was fitted to point A1 after the reversal of the engine-release crossover, although strictly speaking it may have been possible for (part of) a loaded passenger coach on a Down train to pass over it in the facing direction. Points A1 and A2 were worked on the ground by individual weighted hand-levers, the lever for A1 being located on the outside of the loop and connected to the point by a rod running across underneath the loop line. It is presumed that this arrangement was used in order not to provide an obstruction to staff during shunting operations by positioning the lever between the tracks.
The rod from the SB to points B1+B2 passed under the tracks in front of the SB and then split, one section running to B1 and the other to B2. The latter section originally passed under the track betwen the two points and then ran between the main platform road and loop, but at some stage it was re-routed to cross under the engine shed road and along the outside of the loop.
A second siding was added in the goods yard, its connection to the existing siding being worked by an adjacent hand-lever. After these changes the general track layout remained unaltered for the rest of the life of the station, although there were further changes to the signalling installation during the subsequent period of Southern Railway ownership.
During the period of Southern Railway ownership from 1923 onwards some further changes were made to the signalling installation at Lynton. On 2-Dec-1924 (SR Signal Instruction No 25 of 1924) all the existing signals were replaced by 2 separate two-doll brackets, one acting as the Down Homes (DMH and DBH on the diagram below) and another situated on the platform as the Up Startings (UMS and UBS). These bracket signals were of wooden construction to a former London and South Western Railway (L&SWR) design, and it is possible therefore that they were in fact second-hand from replacement work elsewhere on the ex-L&SWR system, although it considered more likely that they were a new construction by a local SR signal engineering department still working to 'traditional' ex-L&SWR designs. According to the Signal Instruction at that time the Bay platform was designated as 'No 1 Road' and the Main platform as 'No 2 Road'.
At some stage the 'economic' Facing Point Locks were replaced by the more usual type which were operated by a separate lever from their respective point lever, and these are marked on the diagram as F1 and F2. (It is possible that point C may have been so fitted at a much earlier date, when it was introduced in place of the double-slip, but there would have been no need to alter point B1 at that time.) Photographic evidence of the rodding indicates that both the FPLs were worked from the same lever.
The L&BR-pattern SB hut was replaced by a L&SWR/SR-type pent-roof hut at the same location. This hut was listed as measuring 9'x8'x7'6" (average) in the Sale Catalogue after the railway closed in 1935. It is possible that the SR replaced the lever-frame as well, but it is known to have remained as 7 levers as it was listed as such in the Sale Catalogue. Assuming that the revised installation did not include any 'economy' measures such as push-pull levers and/or 'selection' of signals, then with 4 signals, 2 sets of points and 1 lever working both FPLs all 7 levers of the frame would have been in use.
It is probable, but not known for certain, that all these alterations by the SR took place at about the same time as part of a general SR refurbishment programme. Thereafter the arrangement depicted in the diagram above remained in use until closure of the railway in 1935.
© CJL Osment 2003-18